Bosnia leaders agree to unblock police reform

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MOSTAR, Bosnia, Oct 28 (Reuters) Bosnia's Muslim, Croat and Serb political leaders on Sunday reached an agreement to get the stalled police reform back on track to fulfil a key condition for closer ties with the European Union.

Following several failed attempts over the past three years to clinch the reform deal, a Bosnian Croat political bloc called the meeting in Mostar in a bid to find a compromise solution.

''This was a positive impulse from the political leaders that they want to continue this process and bring the country closer to Europe,'' international top peace envoy Miroslav Lajcak told reporters.

But Lajcak declined to go into detail of the latest deal until experts gave their opinion.

Local politicians said they have signed a declaration which respects EU requirements that police in the country, now consisting of two separate forces, be organised at state level, financed from a single budget and free from political bias.

The European Union has warned Bosnia it could not sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the first step on the ladder to EU membership, without the police reform.

Unless it signed the deal, Bosnia could become the only Balkan country without any formal contract with the bloc.

Under the Dayton peace accords that ended its 1992-95 war, Bosnia is made up of the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic, each with own police force. Bosnian Muslims want a unified force, while Bosnian Serbs want to keep their own force.

''We agreed that reformed police force must reflect the constitution and this is an attempt to unblock the process of EU integration,'' said the Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik.

Dodik, who threatened to quit his job as PM and head of the Bosnian Serb main party over Lajcak's decision to streamline the work of central government, is seen as generating the political crisis in Bosnia.

His party allies said they would leave their jobs in government unless Lajcak reversed his decision, which they said was violating the Dayton peace accords. Lajcak dismissed their allegations as misinterpretation.

Serb politicians have asked him to reconsider his latest measure related to voting procedures. Lajcak said he would announce his stance on this issue on Monday.


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