To join EU Bosnia has to change police force structure

The European Union said Friday Bosnia must urgently restructure its police force if it wants to open talks before the end of the year on an agreement designed to prepare it for EU membership.

Talks about unifying the police forces of the Bosnian Serb republic and the Bosniak-Croat federation, the last major ethnically divided institutions in Bosnia, are to resume Monday after being endorsed by the Bosnian Serb parties, the AP says.

The reform is a condition for starting negotiations with the European Union on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, a first step toward eventually joining the union.

"The time of delaying is over. All energy should now be devoted to defining a sound and workable agreement, so that Bosnia's European perspective does not suffer further delays. I believe that we are now arriving at the crucial moment of these negotiations," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Rehn following a meeting with the top international representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown.

The talks on police reform have been going on for months, without tangible results.

"There are three basic principles that are not negotiable and that must be respected _ securing the exclusive state-level competencies on police, the elimination of political interference from police and ensuring that police regions are determined on the basis of technical and professional criteria," Rehn was quoted as saying by the AP.

Bosnia hopes to start negotiations with the EU by November, the 10th anniversary of the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, which pitted the country's Muslim Bosniaks, Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs against each other.

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