Turkish generals – Bosnian police – Caucasian think tanks

17 May 2007

Dear friends of ESI,

Today a group of European friends of Turkey published an open letter about recent events in the country. The letter, supported also by ESI, appears in today's International Herald Tribune:

The EU decided to open negotiations with Turkey as a result of a striking sequence of reforms that led the European Commission in 2004 to declare that Turkey substantially met the so-called political Copenhagen criteria. One of these criteria is respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Another is a functioning democracy, including as a basic principle, full civilian control over the armed forces. The intervention by the military on April 27 throws Turkey's compliance into doubt.

See the full letter in English; and in Turkish. To sign it, please go to the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Signatories from across the EU and European political families include, among others: Urban Ahlin, deputy chairman, foreign affairs committee, Swedish Parliament; Hans van den Broek, former foreign minister of the Netherlands; Daniel Cohn-Bendit, member of European Parliament; José Cutileiro, former secretary general, WEU; Andrew Duff, member of European Parliament; Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister of Germany; Teresa Patrício Gouveia, former foreign minister of Portugal; Michiel van Hulten, former chair of the Dutch Labor Party; Dan Jørgensen, member of European Parliament; Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty, former EU Commissioner; Joost Lagendijk, member of European Parliament; Alain Minc, chairman of Le Monde and head of AM Conseil; Cem Özdemir, member of European Parliament; Ana Palacio, former foreign minister of Spain; Narcis Serra, former vice president of Spain; Antonio Vitorino, former EU Commissioner; Gijs de Vries, former EU counter-terrorism coordinator; Stephen Wall, former adviser to the British prime minister. 

Turning point on Mount Olympus

On 10 February 2007 ESI published its report – On Mount Olympus: How the UN violated human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and why nothing has been done to correct it.

We found that the UN had declared 793 Bosnian police officers unfit to exercise police powers during the 1999-2002 vetting process. The UN had failed to offer the police officers the most basic procedural safeguards. Though the flaws in the process have long been public knowledge, the UN and other international agencies in Bosnia have also continued to deny that there was a problem.

On 30 April 2007, after a long fight, all 793 Bosnians banned from serving as police officers under the UN certification process have been given permission to reapply for their posts. The UK Presidency of the UN Security Council has agreed that the policemen may reapply for their jobs as long as the police officers meet the standards set down in Bosnian law for police officials.

This amounts to a striking de facto recognition of the deficiencies of the UN's police vetting process. A draconian punishment – a lifetime ban from police service, loss of pension rights and in many cases being rendered unemployable – has been lifted.

However, the UN still refuses to acknowledge its errors or to assume responsibility for its actions. It has disregarded the calls by the Office of the High Representative as well as the Bosnian government and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission for an individual review process. The current solution does not give the police officers an opportunity to clear their names individually, or any redress for loss of income and career prospects.

For more information see ESI statement Turning point on Mount Olympus (16 May) and the ESI Picture Story On Mount Olympus.

ESI in Serbia and the Caucasus

Imagine that you are in a group of 3 to 4 young people, confident, energetic, still hopeful of changing the world, sitting in a café in Tirana, Pristina or Yerevan. You feel that public policy – both by your own government and by the international actors that help shape your country's future – is not based on an adequate understanding of what is going on in your country. You decide that instead of complaining you want to do something about this.

You are, however, uncertain yourself about where your society is going and how its problems can be resolved. You know that you live in a divided and complex society, and that any policy analysis must be presented in a way that is compelling and credible to a broad range of readers if it is to be taken seriously. The only resources you have is a café table, a laptop and your own energy and creativity.

What do you do?

Since 2004, ESI has offered capacity building seminars for people interested in answering this question. Our effort started in Macedonia and Kosovo. It has since expanded to eight countries, from the Adriatic to the Caspian Sea.

In June and July 2007, there will be ESI capacity building seminars for analysts in Novi Sad (Serbia), Tbilisi (Georgia), Yerevan (Armenia) and Baku (Azerbaijan). To find out about upcoming seminars, and how to apply, please contact us. The picture story of ESI capacity building can be found on our website

New job – new map

Please note that ESI is looking for ambitious and dynamic candidates for the position of executive assistant, based in Istanbul, and starting this summer. For more information, please visit our website.

Earlier this year we introduced our new map of the Balkans. We continue to develop this as an inspirational resource for our readers. We hope you enjoy our new entries: the 22 slide picture story of Sarajevo as well as new books introduced in the ESI literary walk through the Balkans.

As always we are looking forward to any feedback and reactions,

Many best wishes,

Gerald Knaus

Gerald Knaus

Gerald Knaus