The United States devotes substantial resources to help develop professional, capable, accountable law enforcement officers who work together to ensure security in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2018, the United States trained 1,340 officers and held 126 law enforcement training courses. In 2019, we will again provide millions of dollars of security assistance to BiH. Thirty percent of our security assistance is targeted to border security.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Palmer and Ambassador Nelson hosted high-level officials from across BiH at the embassy today to discuss the critical need for increased and improved coordination among all law enforcement and security agencies in BiH. This meeting included representatives from the BiH Ministry of Security, Border Police, OSA, and the Ministries of Interior of the Brčko District, the Federation, and the Republika Srpska. The group focused on the need for enhanced cooperation which is most urgent to address the increased number of migrants entering BiH. Unfortunately, instead of addressing this challenge through a coordinated solution, entities have taken steps to create police reserve forces; these reserve forces would not address the migrant problem, since migration is transnational and cannot be solved by unilateral efforts. BiH instead needs better trained, more specialized, properly equipped and interoperable police that are responsible and accountable first and foremost to citizens.
In the meeting, DAS Palmer and Ambassador Nelson encouraged officials to deploy state resources to shoulder the burden disproportionately borne by local authorities, quickly make available appropriate locations where migrants can be securely accommodated, and improve mechanisms that enable institutions to better work together to address this regional problem. They discouraged BiH actors from duplicating effort and acting unilaterally. They also encouraged local actors to better use international expertise and partnerships, like those with NATO and EUROPOL, to strengthen BiH and regional security.
Prior to the meeting, Ambassador Nelson and DAS Palmer traveled to Bihać where they heard firsthand about the need to improve coordination and the negative consequences of not cooperating to address the migrant situation. They heard how the local community and authorities have responded to the situation in ways that affirm the dignity and humanity of migrants and citizens alike. They heard that the crisis is not one of migrants, but of a failure of state and entity institutions to respond adequately and strategically. They agreed that better coordination and allocation of existing resources is the best way for authorities to immediately strengthen BiH’s safety and security.
The United States will continue to assist law enforcement agencies that seek to address security challenges the right way — through increased coordination and professionalization. Our assistance, however, will be directed to those police agencies and governments that are taking positive steps to achieve effective outcomes, and that share our priorities and goals.