Eupm Bosnia and Herzegovina : General Coppola on Difficulties of Police Reform

Article excerpt

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, General Vincenzo Coppola, head of the EU Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, made a point of highlighting the need for police reform in this country. "This reform is equally if not more important than the constitutional reform," he commenteda- a condition that will probably not be in place before April or May, in his view.

Originally, the proposed reform aimed at creating a single police force was backed by politicians. General Coppola explained, however, that "it proved to be impossible," and not solely on the side of the Bosnian Serbs. The second proposal, based on a different approach, ie on territorial differences, "also failed" due to the opposition of the Bosnians. The general is thus well aware of the "difficulty of creating a single police force in a country that remains divided: why would a Croatian go to work in a Serb zone or vice-versa". For Coppola, what is most important is not so much the reform of the structure as the "strengthening of coordination between the different police forces". "We do not need to have a complete reform in place to take action, but we can at least set up certain aspects, such as the interconnection of data bases". "In any case, a minimum level of political agreement is needed," he added. There is also need to "reinforce technical means [radios, etc]", since the police force works with very limited means and pays its agents very little (between 100 and 500, depending on the zone).

The general nevertheless noted that the Bosnian police "has achieved good results, particularly with the arrest of several mafiosi. A joint operation was organised with the Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian police forces, as was the case a year ago at Banja Luka". Organised crime is "not any higher than in certain other European countries. We have not eradicated it in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or in several other European countries either, in spite of the fact that these have far more substantial resources," he explained. …