Wednesday 2 June 2010

And the Special Representative for Bosnia is...

Ashton may reshuffle the deck of EU Special Representatives now that the Commission delegations are being upgraded to embassies around the world. This is entirely rational and a good move, even if it does mean, as ever, another round of backstage member state maneovering on who gets what post. In the end, it won't make sense to have SRs when the EEAS (European External Action Service) is in place and can do the job just as well. Having SRs for regions and attached to international and supranational organisations (African Union, Balkans, etc) is a good idea, since it would permit an overall approach to regions and promote good contacts and deep relationships between the EU and other regional organisations.

But one point of caution. Paddy Ashdown is being talked about as a possible SR for the Balkans. There is some opposition to his possible appointment on the basis that there shouldn't be too many UK nationals at the top in the EEAS, but there's no denying that he has experience in the region, as he has served as the High Representative for the international community in Bosnia - a very powerful and sensitive role that is key to the state building and reconciliation in the country. But this post is still just as important to the peace process in Bosnia today, and stripping Inzko (the current HR/EUSR) of his EUSR status wouldn't be a good signal to the country when it faces elections this year.

Bosnia still has a long way to go on the path to becoming a country at peace with itself, and it will not help for the EU to take, or appear to take, a more "hands off" approach. This is Europe's back yard, and we have a duty to be fully engaged in the process. I don't think that a SR for the whole Western Balkans would be enough: the HR in BiH needs to be a link between Bosnia, the international community and the EU to work as effectively as possible, and Bosnia needs to have a solid and stable link to the rest of Europe.

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