*English Bezpieczeństwo Bezpieczeństwo międzynarodowe CII petersberg series Europa UE

The European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The First Laboratory for the European Crisis Management Competences


police, zrodlo- eupm.orgThe European Union Police Mission (EUPM) may be considered as the most important laboratory for testing the EU civilian crisis management competences in the area of the rule of law. Indeed, EUPM was the first-ever European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) mission, dealing with the Security Sector Reform (SSR). The mission was officially launched on 1 January 2003 with a three-year mandate, with the view to replace the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF). The EUPM’s non-executive mandate was more narrowly defined in comparison with its predecessor, therefore it was extended in 2007 and 2009. The mandate of the mission ended on 30 June 2012. In accordance with Annex 11 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, the EU Police Mission aimed “to establish sustainable policing arrangements under Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) ownership in accordance with best European and international practice”.

For this purpose, the mission should: (1) preserve the levels of institutional and personal proficiency; (2) enhance, through monitoring, mentoring and inspecting, police managerial and operational capacities; (3) strengthen professionalism at high level within the ministries as well as at senior police officers levels through advisory and inspection functions; and (4) monitor the exercise of appropriate political control over the police. In order to achieve these goals, several programmes were implemented on seven topics: (1) crime police, (2) criminal justice, (3) internal affairs, (4) police administration, (5) public order and security, (6) State Border Service, and (7) State Information and Protection Agency.

Afterwards, the EUPM was required to accomplish new objectives, such as the consolidation of human rights, the cooperation of the local authorities with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the advice on constitutional reform. In addition, the mission was restructured in order to avoid the overlapping of the plethora of the European institutions acting in BiH, therefore getting a better coordination and a more coherent policy. Finally, the mission was refocused in particular on the fight against corruption and organized crime.

The Bosnian security context

The security scenario in BiH inherited from the civil war is particularly fragile and characterized by remarkable weaknesses affecting the judiciary, the police system and the internal affairs. A widespread organized crime and a corruption deeply rooted in the social, economic and political context constitute the main problems on the ground. There is a symbiotic relation between organized crime, business and politics. The high level of corruption affects the Bosnian economy, therefore mistrusting the politicians. Numerous are the cases of conflict of interests and malpractice on a large scale.

Moreover, BiH still remains a place of transit for illegal trafficking towards the Western Europe and a source of arms and ammunition for criminal groups in the EU. Its geographical position makes BiH vulnerable to the smuggling and trafficking of goods, arms, drugs, and humans, illegal economic activities (corruption, illegal businesses) and terrorism. Traffickers benefit from the illegal crossing points, the differences between the judiciary competences and the insufficient border controls.

One of the main challenges is to ensure a full implementation of the legal and judiciary reforms through the development and the strengthening of the rule of law. A reliable judiciary is also a guarantee for the effective functioning of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The Bosnian judiciary system is currently characterized by a high level of incompetence, lack of transparency and corruption, and is subjected to the political pressure.

Moreover, the police structures are very fragmented at different levels of the entities (cantonal, national), therefore they lead to problems in terms of efficiency and coordination. As a result, around 17,000 police officers are employed (out of a 4 million population) with a budget over a value of EUR 180 millions per year. Then, the cooperation between state-level and local agencies is often hampered due to the manipulation of the ethnic political parties for secessionist purposes.

Finally, internally displaced people, refugees and political minorities in certain regions are the target of terrorist attacks.

Legal basis

The Council Joint Action of 11 March 2002 gave EUPM the mandate to “establish sustainable policing arrangements under BiH ownership in accordance with best European and international practice”. Previously, the UN International Police Task Force guaranteed an international police presence in BiH, monitoring law enforcement activities and facilities, advising and training law enforcement personnel, and responding to requests for assistance in order to contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law. Upon the request of the Bosnian authorities, the Council of the European Union announced in the first months of 2002 its readiness to establish, by 1st January 2003, a follow-on mission to the IPTF in BiH; then, the decision was confirmed by the UN Council of Security. Despite the continuity between the IPTF and EUPM, the two missions differed due to their respective mandates. While the UN mission had executive powers, therefore enacting coercive and binding measures for fighting the organized crime, the EUPM had a more political and narrow mandate focused especially on the institution-building. Moreover, EUPM did not have the right to dismiss local police officers who breached its instructions, having the High Representative in BiH retained those powers. The difference can be explained in the light of the initial necessity to re-institutionalize the police forces in both entities and to pick out the war criminals standing among the police officers.

The EU Police Mission sought to capitalize the achievements of the more technical IPTF. In doing so, the mission focused on institution-building through non-executive activities: monitoring the exercise of political control of BiH policing to ensure that such control was appropriate and relevant; monitoring political control over the police; fighting trafficking and organised crime; supporting the institutional set-up of security and border structures. The EUPM’s mandate was extended to cover other topics, such as the human rights, and conferred advisory functions in order to increase the coordination between the police and the judiciary, which was often hampered by the pressure of some political parties, which could take advantage of the failure of the police system for secessionist purposes. The mission has been progressively drawning its own attention on the fight against the organized crime and the corruption as well, although it could arise tensions with the local authorities due to the possibility of incriminating people within the government, therefore undermining the cooperation between the EUPM and internal actors.

Characteristics of the mission

Since 2003, the Mission counted 1,786 police officers and 154 international civilian experts from 27 EU Member States and 6 third countries, as well as 487 staff from BiH. The Joint Action on EUPM clearly states that it should be established under the BiH ownership, in order to enhance its policing responsibilities and to ensure the Mission its own exit strategy.

Under the direction of the European Union Special Representative, the EUPM promoted the development of the rule of law in BiH. The mission was assigned peace-building tasks with a purpose to create a multiethnic, professional and transparent police service in BiH.

Despite the other international institutions, EUPM gave the local police structures an unconditional operational and management support, while operating in line with the obligations contained in the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, especially in the field of the police reform.

Fight against Organized Crime

BiH is located at one of the main crossroads of the illegal drug, human and arms trafficking in Europe. EUPM sought to address this problem by strengthening and assisting the state-level law enforcement institutions, such as the Border Police (BP); the State Investigative and Protection Agency (SIPA); and the Ministry of Security. Moreover, the EUPM has provided the police service in BiH with high-tech surveillance equipment. The Mission contributed to the increase of the cooperation between law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, and supported the local police in investigating organized crime matters from the planning stage to the end of the case at stake.

Operational capacity of the Bosnian police

The Mission was mandated to mentor, monitor and assist the mid-level management police, the senior officers, the political authorities over the daily operations of the police, the implementation of projects aimed to improve the border security; the reform of the security sector and the criminal justice system. Moreover, EUPM provided training for the use of the high-tech surveillance equipment, and assisted the new state-level security institutions (e.g., Minister of Security and SIPA) in developing their operational capacity to fight against the organized crime.

Integrity and accountability of the Bosnian police

One of the main problems in BiH is the widespread corruption inside the police. According to a 2010 UNDP survey, around 80% of the Bosnian citizens claimed that the police units were corrupt or were alleged to violate human rights during the police daily operations. In order to increase the accountability of the Bosnian police, the EUPM monitored situations perceived as illegal within the police, having the right to freely access to every documents or persons in charge of specific tasks.

Key achievements

Looking at the overall achievements of the EUPM, it is worth noting that the Bosnian police have been transformed from an instrument of ethnic conflict into a professional service. The mission has contributed to bring the local police closer to International and European standards. The European mission has faced some of the most important problems in BiH, such as the illegal smuggling, the organized crime and the corruption. At an institutional level, EUPM contributed to develop Bosnian state-level institutions and local agencies, and to build strong links between them, although problems affecting the coordination are still on the ground. This led to another important outcome, namely the depoliticization of the police and the development of the local operational capacity in the police sector against unconventional security threats. Moreover, the set-up of the Police Steering Board, an advisory body aimed to define common policing strategies and operational priorities, guaranteed a permanent dialogue between all ethnic groups on relevant rule of law-related issues. The non-application of the principle of conditionality in supporting the capacity building of the police service made the EU Police Mission very popular among the Bosnian public opinion.

Finally, the signature of the Strategic Agreement with Europol on the exchange of general intelligence in 2007 has allowed a share of intelligence between the EU Police Mission and the local police, therefore successfully contributing to the fight against the organized crime.


During the conflicts in the Western Balkans and during the first post-war phase, the EU played a marginal role in Bosnia. Although the EU was the main donor to the reconstruction, it is only since 2000 that Europe has started playing a leading role in the peace-building process in BiH.

The EU was gradually more engaged in a number of different roles. The EU adopted an integrated and comprehensive approach, ranging from the deployment of the military mission EUFOR-Althea and of the civilian mission EUPM, to the beginning of the Stabilisation and Association Process, which assigned to BiH a membership perspective. However, the fragmentation of the EU presence has been counterproductive, hampering an efficient and coherent strategy towards BiH. In other words, the growing role of the EU did not correspond to the development of a reliable and real vision of the democratization and integration process in BiH. As a result, these partially conflicting signals altered the effectiveness of the EU Police Mission. On the other hand, it is remarkable the contribution of the Mission in supporting Bosnia’s EU integration process by minimizing the security risks, creating a safe and secure environment, and helping BiH generate its own security competences. Finally, the local ownership-based approach allowed to achieve a long-term sustainable fight against the organized crime.

As mentioned above, the EUPM was the first ESDP mission, therefore it played a crucial role also in terms of the experience gained in the field of civilian crisis management. Since then, the EU has strengthened its conflict prevention and crisis management mechanisms, planning other civilian and military missions, capitalizing the main achievements and analyzing the obstacles that hampered the implementation of an efficient crisis-management policy (especially, the internal factors such as the complexity of the EU’s policy-making structures and the lack of human and material resources).

Alessandra Briganti – CII Collaborator – After receiving her Master in International Relations from the University of Rome La Sapienza, she post-graduated in European Studies at the College of Europe. Her research interests cover a wide range of issues, such as European politics, International Relations of the European Union, EU enlargement policy towards Western Balkans. She has successfully proven record with the research on European and International Affairs. Recently worked in Pristina in the field of minority rights, and in Belgrade at the EU Delegation to Serbia. 

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