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Bosnia approves police reform, clears EU hurdle

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Latest update : 2008-04-11

Bosnian lower-house passes a key reform coordinating the country's regional police forces, necessary for eventual EU membership.

Bosnian lower house lawmakers on Thursday adopted long-disputed police reforms which are the key condition to move the country forward on its path to eventual European Union membership.
  
Two police reform bills which passed by 22 votes to 19 still need confirmation by the Upper House, considered a formality.
  
The bills were the last EU-set hurdle for Bosnia to sign a key pact on closer ties with the 27-nation bloc later this month.
  
The deputies dismissed all three previous proposals resulting from more then two years of talks about the extent of integration of the separate ethnic police forces and adopted a forth drafted over the past week with the help of the international community's top representative in Bosnia Miroslav Lajcak.
  
Bosnia's strongest parliamentary and opposition parties -- the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) -- voted against the bills saying they were just "cosmetic."
  
Initially, Brussels demanded a rapid unification of Bosnia's separate police forces.
  
However, the EU has since accepted a reform which envisages setting up seven new state-level police coordination bodies, without immediately affecting the autonomy of police forces of the country's two highly autonomous post-war parts.
  
The adopted bills regulate that the new bodies will assume authority over separate police forces a year after and in a way defined by constitutional reform.
  
There is no set date for the start of the constitutional reform process.
  
Current entity police structures are subordinated to the respective entity governments and closely tied to local political structures.
  
Since the 1992-95 war Bosnia consists of the Serbs' Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
  
In December of last year, Bosnia initialled a Stabilisation and Association Agreement -- essentially a trade and aid pact, seen as the first step towards joining the European club.
  
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said last month that Brussels expected to sign the SAA with Bosnia in April, pending the implementation of the police reforms.

Date created : 2008-04-11

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