Blog AnalysisBalkansMissions Operations

First lesson of ten years of policing in Bosnia (Stefan Feller)

(BRUSSELS2 in Sarajevo) What lessons can be learned from the European Union police mission (EUPM/EUPM) in Bosnia-Herzegovina? This was the meaning of a workshop which took place in Sarajevo on Thursday and Friday (which B2 attended). The mission which ends in the coming days (June 30 exactly) is symbolic from different points of view. This is the first mission of European defense policy (ESDP then CSDP). It is also the longest so far in the (short) history of the PeSDC. It has thus evolved, over the years, in a country hollowed out by war, crimes against humanity and genocide, where the differences between communities are not about to disappear, with a legal framework - the agreements of Dayton – which does not make the task of rebuilding the rule of law easy. Stefan Feller, its boss, was kind enough to draw some lessons for us.

• EUPM ends today, a mission that you followed at several stages, throughout part of your career?

Effectively. I followed the evolution of this mission in the Police unit of the Council then in the “conduct of operations” of the CPCC and previously, when I was at the United Nations I was consulted on the executive mandate, before to arrive here (in Sarajevo) in 2008.

They say that this mission is symbolic, that it is a first, in what sense, apart from the chronology?

It was in Bosnia-Herzegovina that the European Union implemented, for the first time, its concept of crisis management. Between 2000 and 2002, I had the opportunity to witness the initial conception of civilian crisis management. The European Union had decided to differentiate the mandates of the missions according to whether they aimed to “reinforce” or to “substitute“. The first mandate “reinforcement” (strenghtening) was later called (and still called today) “executive mandate”. While the first type of mission was conceptualized by the description of its functions: observe/follow, supervise/train and advise (monitor, mentor, advise). The broad planning process which took place in 2002 anticipated a duration of three years. Instead, EUPM remained for almost ten years. And its mandate has been continuously updated based on an internal process of feedback and progress made in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

• Is it possible to maintain a strategic line despite the staff turnover involved in such a mission?

Yes it's possible. When I look back over the last ten years, I see that we can consistently apply a strategic approach with staff rotation. It is not only possible. But this experience can be transposable, our experience was thus transported to Eulex.

What essential lesson do you draw from this?

When we look at the last 10 years, I can say that we have succeeded in strengthening the mission in areas where there was both a strong will from the host State; the capacities necessary for the mission and the clear commitment of Member States. These are the two conditions for the success of a mission. If you do not have both the necessary level of mandate and the agreement, the involvement, of the host state, you cannot have the required level. And this will limit the impact of the mission.

• Involve the host State, but how?

He needs to be consulted more about what he can offer and what he can receive. We must not hesitate to consult, to ensure that the State is truly involved in decisions, not only before the start of the mission, but also throughout the mission, during evaluations, debriefings, etc. If the result is positive, we can then consider having a broader, more detailed approach on certain aspects. This is what I remember above all, from this mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina but also from the 16 other missions that I have planned at the level of the European Union (Palestine, Congo, Afghanistan, etc.).

Wasn't Bosnia-Herzegovina particularly easy for police reform?

When we arrived, the police reform process was far from what we could expect at the European level. There was a need for broad constitutional reform, which was controversial and difficult to implement. When you have 18 law enforcement agencies and 16 police units, it's not easy. You must establish a common mechanism for fighting crime. Same thing, if you want to do intelligence, you have to exchange information. We established a vision and presented this to our Bosnian colleagues. We then had to have this proposal approved in all ministries, put it in place and debrief our interlocutors as often as possible on the progress of the project (and the blockages). In all the communications I had with (headquarters) in Brussels, this is what I defended: involving the host state, following the process on the ground, doing everything to obtain an environment favorable to reforms.

(NB: among the results observed, the EUPM mission thus succeeded in transforming the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) into an operational police service with increased powers of intervention on organized crime and fight against corruption, enabled the strengthening of the ministry responsible for security and border control, and assisted the Bosnian police in cross-border authorities).

• Being a policeman helps ?

Certainly yes. When I wanted an interview, it was easier not only because I represented the EU, its power, its States, but also because I was a colleague of my interlocutors. I knew what the police were (…). You see I have these two badges there – and he shows these two shoulders decorated one with the European badge, the other with his national badge of the German police – it is necessary to have these 2 badges (to be able to act ).

  • NB: a workshop is organized by the Brussels think tank European Policy Center: “After the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Lessons learned for the CSDP?” Thursday (June 14) from 16 p.m. to 18 p.m. With Stefan Feller the head of EUPM, Tobias Flessenkemper, his senior political advisor, Hansjörg Haber, the EU civil operations commander, and two researchers working on this issue: Damien Helly, from the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) and Eva Gross from the Institute of European Studies of the VUB (Free University of Brussels – Flemish). Registration and Information: here

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).