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State-building and organized crime: implementing the international law enforcement agenda in Bosnia


Domestic and transnational criminalized activities are typical side effects of weak statehood and civil war. International actors pursue a variety of counter-crime programmes explicitly designed to strengthen the judicial, penal and law enforcement capacities of states after war. This paper traces the implementation of international counter-crime programmes in post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina and asks what effects they have had so far. Drawing on implementation research in the fields of public policy and foreign policy analysis, the paper discusses the constellation of factors that influence the implementation of the international law enforcement agenda in Bosnia. While we detect an initial gap between international counter-crime strategies and their implementation on the ground, our analysis also shows that international actors have intensified their fight against organized crime in post-conflict societies. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, counter-crime implementation efforts, unsystematic and uncoordinated at first, have improved over time.

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  1. 1.

    A previous version of this article was presented at conferences in Turin (ECPR SGIR Conference, September 2007) and Sarajevo (HUMSEC Conference, October 2007). For their comments and advice we thank Benjamin S. Buckland, Gemma Collantes Celador, Irma Deljkić, Petrus van Duyne, Denis Hadžović, Susan E. Penksa, Antje Wiener, the participants of the 2007 SGIR Young Researchers Workshop, as well as the JIRD editors and three anonymous reviewers. We also thank the officials interviewed for this project, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity. Finally, both authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Volkswagen Foundation in their European Foreign and Security Policy Studies Programme.

  2. 2.

    Other relevant cases include Haiti, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

  3. 3.

    The paper limits its scope to tracing the policy outcome of specific measures in the target state, rather than evaluating the overall impact of international assistance. Outcomes are direct effects of a policy on its targeted actors, while impact refers to the overall effects of a policy on the socio-economic environment (Easton 1965).

  4. 4.

    Vennesson (2007) provides a useful conceptual frame for understanding how worldviews and ideas of individuals can affect policy outcomes.

  5. 5.

    See for instance Arsovska and Verduyn (2008) for a discussion of perceptions of crime and violence in Albania.

  6. 6.

    Interview with international prosecutor, Sarajevo, October 2007.

  7. 7.

    The downside is that vague mandates can also hinder implementation, as was the case after Dayton when IFOR/SFOR commanders, especially from the US, regarded the lack of a legal obligation of NATO to support law enforcement as an excuse to do very little in this field.

  8. 8.

    The US provided support as well (e.g. computers).

  9. 9.

    Over the past years, the EU has invested over €17 million to support police reform in Bosnia.

  10. 10.

    We thank Susan Penksa for her comments on this point.

  11. 11.

    Interview with a former participant of an ICITAP course, Sarajevo, October 2007.

  12. 12.

    Human trafficking tends to involve more violence and deception than human smuggling, and does not require the crossing of an international border. Moreover, human trafficking violates both state laws and individual rights. It must be noted that in reality there are often no clear-cut distinctions between these two forms of crime.

  13. 13.

    Interview with Border Police official, Sarajevo, June 2008.

  14. 14.

    Interview with EUPM official, Sarajevo, November 2007.

  15. 15.

    We owe this piece of information to Irma Deljkić.

  16. 16.

    Interviews with police and NGOs in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia, 2006–2008.

  17. 17.

    Interviews, Sarajevo, August 2006 and October 2007.

  18. 18.

    Interview, Brussels, January 2007.

  19. 19.

    Interview with international and Bosnian law enforcement officers, Sarajevo, August 2006.

  20. 20.

    Interviews, Sarajevo, August-November 2007.

  21. 21.

    Interviews with law enforcement official, Sarajevo, October 2007.

  22. 22.

    This is still the case, although less so than before.

  23. 23.

    Interview, Sarajevo, October 2007.

  24. 24.

    Interviews with prosecutors and security experts, Sarajevo, August–October 2007.

  25. 25.

    Interviews with EUPM and Border Police officials, Sarajevo, fall 2007 and summer 2008.

  26. 26.

    Interviews in Sarajevo, August–November 2007.

  27. 27.

    Interviews, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Geneva, 2007–2008.

  28. 28.

    This assessment is based on talks held with military and police personnel in various parts of Kosovo in 2007 and 2008. See also Institut für Europäische Politik (2007), European Commission and Council of Europe (2007: 48).


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Schroeder, U., Friesendorf, C. State-building and organized crime: implementing the international law enforcement agenda in Bosnia. J Int Relat Dev 12, 137–167 (2009).

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  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • organized crime
  • policy implementation
  • security sector reform
  • state-building
  • Western Balkans