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Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Sarajevo, 18 July (AKI) - Bosnia's intelligence agency (OSA), formed two years ago, is firmly standing on its feet, but its coming of age would have been impossible without the help of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), state officials have said. "We would probably not even have a law on OSA without OSCE and the OHR (UN Office of the High Representative)," said Tomislav Limov, the head of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee for the Oversight of the OSA, looking back at the two-year period.

The idea of forming a unified intelligence agency instead of two branches in the Muslim-Croatian Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS), was first suggested in 2003 by then high representative for Bosnia Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown.

Before leaving the post in January this year, Ashdown drastically reduced the power of the two entities to boost central institutions. Under the Dayton peace accord, which ended Bosnian civil war in 1995, the country was divided into two entities which had their own governments, parliaments, police corps and armies. Today constitutional reforms are in the process of strengthening the central government.

One of Ashdown's priorities was to unify intelligence services and the project was pushed through with less resistance than the reform of the police and army.

To realize this purpose, Ashdown turned to OSCE for professional help, and after two years the efforts yielded results. In early 2004, OSCE formed the Intelligence Reform Implementation Section (IRIS) as a unit within its Security Co-operation Department.

IRIS had just four staff members, a number that remained constant until the end of its mandate on 30 June this year. Headed by a veteran Slovenian intelligence expert, Drago Fers, IRIS has assisted in preparing the legislation to be passed in parliament and to set up the structure of OSA.

"We were the first ever," said Fers, adding that "the OSCE had never had a similar programme, nor had it ever before been involved in intelligence reform. With that in mind, I think we did a good job," he said.

OSA director Almir Dzuvo agreed by saying that the creation of the agency was "one of the most important steps in the transition of Bosnia-Herzegovina towards true democracy and the European Union." Apart from the results obtained in fighting corruption and organized crime, Dzuvo said OSA was a reliable barrier against "threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina and to its constitutional order."
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